by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
We’ve been generally supportive of the General Assembly’s approach to budgeting, even as we’ve cautioned against overspending and continued to seek reforms in the process. Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene highlight North Carolina in their summary of a useful report from the left-of-center Center for Budget and Policy Priorities on fiscal notes.
Fiscal notes are estimates of a bill’s effects on government revenue and spending. In North Carolina, these notes look five years into the future to capture the full implementation of a program. But, this is not done for every version of every bill and is only done when a legislator requests. Most lamentably, it is not done for budget bills. Otherwise North Carolina is one of only six states plus the District of Columbia that hits five of CBPP’s six marks on fiscal notes.
A fiscal note that showed the $42 billion state cost (plus $30 billion from the federal government) of providing health insurance for all North Carolinians led Verla Insko to pull a bill in June. For context, the state appropriated $24 billion in General Fund taxes for the current fiscal year.
In another example from Barrett and Greene, Maryland’s Division of Legislative Services “explored the often overlooked financial effect of environmental impact statements — a cost of between $250,000 and $2 million per statement.”
More transparency on government finances, that’s something all sides can agree on.